Letters to the Editor Winter 2011


I was part of the tribe of thirteen tree planters. Jerry R., Ed W., and John S. were our leaders. Back then, before the Hoedads, it was a bit of a struggle and no one saw much past the unit we were planting, certainly not far enough into the “tomorrow” to see the scenes depicted in your wonderful story of the Hoedads [“With a Human Face,” Autumn 2011]. So well done, my friend, the nostalgia sooooo deep in my heart.

A few years later, I did a brief stint with the Mud Sharks while searching out my old buddies, the Cougar Mountain boys. We two tribes united over one big unit on a side of Mary’s Peak. The last time I saw Ed Wemple he was standing atop dang near half a cord of wood that we had stacked so perfectly to form a solid but built-to-burn structure. Ed was giving an excited speech as the flames churned amidst the timbers.

We are all in some undefined line, asking of us equally undefined faith that the arrow of time does not pierce but leads to a grand mystery beyond imagination. But, after seeing this story, I would slap that arrow down and step sideways into a sluice that would rush me back to a slash-covered unit, 45 degrees, drizzling rain, Uniroyal tux, a double pack of trees on my hip bag, my friends with beards, beads, and braids, together again, blinded by optimism and simple, innocent love of life, stepping with a stride that delivered energy up the leg, across the back, down the arm, and into the blade tip of the hoedad.

Don McCormick
Zhongshan, China

The Hoedad cover photo and the article about them [“With a Human Face”] was one of the best I have seen in Oregon Quarterly. It brought back memories of what the University was before it degenerated into an athletic disgrace. The Hoedads represented a time of commitment to public benefit when the University was a collection of scholars with great ideas and ideals, even if the formal certifications were sometimes weak. Thank you!

Robert Olsen, PhD ’74

Thanks for your excellent story on the Hoedads. I lived in Eugene in the 1970s and had a Hoedad roommate named Slash. Also, my late husband, Nick Gallo ’77, wrote a story for Oregon Times Magazine on the Hoedads in 1977 while he was working on his degree in journalism at the UO. The story helped launch his successful freelance writing career. Nick went on to write for many magazines, including the Seattle WeeklyPeople, and Better Homes and Gardens. We moved to Seattle, had two sons (Alex and Noah), and Nick eventually focused on travel writing. He won many awards and was honored twice with the “Pluma de Plata,” a distinguished award from the Mexican tourist industry. After his sudden death while on assignment in Greece in 2007, his fellow journalists started the “Nick Gallo Award” to recognize top travel writing about Mexico. He was fifty-seven years old.

But Robert Leo Heilman’s story on the Hoedads took me back to the beginning. What inspiring, playful, intense, crazy times those were. Nick used to say he took his retirement in his twenties since he never had a “real job” back then. I am thankful that he did, since he never made it to the age when most people retire.

Laurie Brown ’79

Thanks for your article about the Hoedads. They, among other alternative communities in the Eugene area, exemplify much that was and is good in the communal view of things. I, too, was a tree planter in the early ’70s, but in central Idaho and for the Forest Service. Our fire crew planted trees, rebuilt fences, dug trails and, of course, spent as much time as possible in the local bar while we awaited the late summer fire bust and the fat paychecks it brought. I still remember the rude good humor of my coworkers, the thrill of getting out of a helicopter uncomfortably near a fire, Rainier beer, and the beauty of the Boise National Forest. But what I remember most is something you may have missed, given the focus of the article on the communal rather than the individual. Namely, tree planting is just plain hard, dirty work. I like to think that one or two decent jack pines are growing somewhere in Idaho as a tribute to the effort I put in! Mens agitat molem.

Steve Thom ’73
Hopkins, Minnesota

What a wonderful article on the Hoedads. In the many pieces that have been written about them, I’ve never seen one that captured so well their spirit, passion, and many contributions. Having worked closely with the Hoedads, however, I felt that a crucial part of their history was missing: their actions that led directly to the EPA cancelling the registration for 2,4,5-T (or Agent Orange), which had been widely used in the management of forests, rights-of-way, and pastures since the end of the Vietnam War.

The EPA’s 1979 decision—won in a titanic battle against some powerful corporations including Dow Chemical—was the culmination of court cases that came about largely because of Hoedad funding for research on the economic benefits and costs of using 2,4,5-T for forest management, rather than relying on well-known alternatives such as manual clearance of brush. What seemed a straightforward task—to analyze the accuracy of the Forest Service’s benefit-cost analysis of using 2,4,5-T for brush control—led to a yearlong research project that exposed the economic analysis as fraudulent and unsubstantiated. This resulted directly in the EPA’s cancellation decision. The outcome for forest management and forest communities throughout the United States was profound. To me, this is one of the most amazing David and Goliath stories of the twentieth century.

Jan Newton ’69
Doha, State of Qatar

I was excited to see the article, “With a Human Face” by Robert Leo Heilman. Heilman is an excellent writer and well represents the Oregon experiences that many of us have been part of. I lived both in southern Oregon (Glide) and Eugene during those times, so I was around various Hoedad groups, and I continue to meet past co-op members years later. All their experiences are worthy of discussion and praise for such arduous cooperative work and living situations. Having 3,000 members (and 25 percent women!) over a twenty-four-year lifespan with the annual earnings (adjusted) of $6 million, at their peak, is admirable. In addition, after the Hoedads folded in 1994, all the members that they could find received money back from their investment. That is pretty incredible. Thank you for this article and the online photographs.

Nancy Hagood, MS ’79

More and Less Magic

As one fortunate to have visited Rancho La Puerta various times, I thoroughly enjoyed Lauren Kessler’s piece [“Hands-On Magic,” Autumn 2011] about Sarah Livia Brightwood Szekely. I particularly remember one visit during which much of the grounds were devoid of plant material. I was told that the owner’s daughter was reintroducing native and hardy plants that would take less water and be less of a drain on the environment. By my next visit some years later, I learned that over a dozen different rosemarys added their fragrance to the air, and the ambitious landscaping project had been completed. Each time I visit, I am deeply appreciative that a family cared enough to create such a place of renewal and learning. Their sensitive connection to every element of their environs is evident—from the hills and meadows of the ranch, to the organic farm, to all the people of Tecate with whom they enjoy a close and mutually beneficial relationship. It is a special treat to know that Brightwood Szekely cherishes Oregon and Tecate and that through two generations of her family’s stewardship she has played a pivotal role in bringing parks, organic farming, and beauty to her adopted home in a way that benefits so many others.

Jane Scheidecker ’80 

I just finished reading the article on Sarah Livia Brightwood Szekely [“Hands-On Magic”] and was disappointed that no credit was given to my good friend and fellow alum, Chris Drayer ’81, ASLA, who designed and supervised the construction of a large part of Rancho La Puerta’s gardens over a period of thirteen years. He was awarded a design competition there while we were in school at the Department of Landscape Architecture and continued to work on the gardens full time for over a decade.

I visited the ranch on several occasions and watched firsthand the development of vast and prominent areas, some of them pictured in your article. The work was carried out by Drayer over the years, much of the time while he was living on the property. I hope that someday he will get the credit he deserves.

Jeffrey Bale ’81

I recently read “Hands-On Magic” in Oregon Quarterly and enjoyed it immensely. I was completely enchanted by the descriptions of the ranch and the services they have to offer. I am now looking into booking my next vacation there, thanks to the article.

Shannon Richard ’91, JD ’99

Will Hunting

I was driving back into Eugene late this sunny afternoon, after swimming in the Coast Fork with our dog, and thinking how surely blessed we are as a community; how those who don’t recognize that don’t see the interconnected nature of our lives; how much it means to be a part of community; and to give as much as we receive.

Then, later tonight I read “Is There a Will?” [Autumn 2011] and was surprised and happy at the similarity of sentiment. Thank you for your thoughts, and this kind of introduction to the magazine, which I think highly of, regardless of this dovetailing. Thank you, too, for the Hoedads article. Re: Oregon Quarterly, I like best Oregon’s history.

Peter M. K. Frost, JD ’90

I was touched and intrigued by the Editor’s Note in the Autumn issue. Being the father of a recent UO graduate, I too see the need for a better education system. Too many times teachers pass on students that they did not want to have to deal with again instead of making sure they have done their job to educate that child. When this happens several times, you have a child in high school that can barely read or write at a third or fourth grade level. Nowhere in our Constitution does it say the government is responsible for education, but like many other elements of our lives, they have become the major provider of services, and seldom do they do as good a job as private companies. They did a survey in 2000 in the San Francisco Bay area to compare private education and public education systems. In the public sector there were 900,000 students enrolled and 4,000 administrators (not teachers); in the private sector there were 300,000 students and only 150 administrators. Private schools had test scores that were 10 percent to 30 percent higher than public schools. My conclusion is that the private sector has to be more accountable for the education they provide and is not top loaded with administrators. The private sector is run like a business and runs efficiently. Tell me where in government anything runs efficiently?

Tom Williams

Not only is there not a will, there is an active opposition to public education in this country [Editor’s Note, Autumn 2011]. It is infused with religion and antiintellectualism. Closely related is the concept that “government is the problem,” where the “will” is to eliminate perceived government interference in our lives. We are rather schizophrenic in this country when it comes to issues like education. We say it is critically important, vital to a democracy, necessary to compete in the world and then make it the first budget to be cut, over and over.

I am afraid that a goodly number of our citizenry in this country, who feel belittled by “latte-drinking elites” and threatened by what they see as moral decay, want us to turn back the clock to the nineteenth century. They have been conned into ostensible support for small government, fiscal responsibility, and laissez faire by those who actually want no government interference with their right to pollute, mistreat, and defraud; who want a penniless government that cannot regulate; who desire to pay no taxes while being protected in their efforts to secure largess for themselves by the government. All of this is smoke screened by playing upon people’s fears and creating division and gridlock. The rest of the country either doesn’t care or feels helpless to change the situation we face.

Thank you for your expression of hope. I don’t mean to be such a wet blanket, but until we reclaim our democracy I see little hope for progress and much energy being devoted to destroying the progress made.

Lawrence Rosencrantz ’67

Petty, petty. This is my reaction to the last paragraph in the Editor’s Note [Autumn 2011]. You don’t (won’t) get your way by bashing the military who’ve preserved your right to speak, read, and write in English—rather than German, Japanese, or Russian—or by slamming the billionaires who’ve built our economy into the standard of living you enjoy. How about some largeness of spirit and honest recognition of those who have invested so much in our nation?

David R. Beach ’59, JD ’83

Our Shared Family Room

You asked what we thought of the OQ and you heard. When you reported the results of your reader survey [“What Do You Think?” Upfront, Autumn 2011], it felt like when the lights come on after a movie. There I was, surrounded by my multigenerational classmates, sharing our collective family room, reading the OQ together. And didn’t I learn something about us! This diverse (including the ones who don’t like to be sermonized about it) group all have a shared experience, if only geographical. We love sports . . . or not; we desire hard science . . . or not, we must have the hard copy . . . or . . . not. This is who we are. I could list many labels that categorize us, but I prefer to think we have far more in common . . . than not. Isn’t there something special about a university that provided a setting for us all to learn and grow together? I am grateful that I found my way to the UO. I also value how the OQ continues to be a mirror for us to reflect on our experiences and a window that gives us a peek at what’s to come.

Jim Stark ’77, MS ’95